Kittiratt, Korn spar over rice price schemes

Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij traded verbal blows over their rice price support schemes Wednesday night.

Both men insisted farmers benefited more under their own administrations.

The pair were guest speakers of the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations which hosted a dinner talk for them to discuss their visions for the economy.

Pouring scorn on the Pheu Thai-led government's rice price pledging scheme for farmers, Mr Korn charged that the scheme has been plagued with corruption and caused serious damage to the country.

His remarks were immediately rejected by Mr Kittiratt.

The deputy premier said the rice price guarantee scheme introduced during the Democrat-led government only helped farmers sell their paddy at market price whereas Pheu Thai's rice price pledging scheme has enabled farmers to earn more by selling at above the market benchmark price.

Insisting on the benefit of the government's rice price pledging scheme, Mr Kittiratt said he was ready to go on any stage to debate with any academic to counter their criticism.

Mr Korn argued the Democrat Party's rice price guarantee scheme benefited as many as 4 million farmers when it was introduced during the last administration.

Only 2 million farmers have benefited from Pheu Thai's rice price pledging so far and the programme has resulted in as much as 12 million tonnes of rice accumulating in government stocks.

The government would find it difficult to sell these stocks because doing so would cause the rice price to fall, he said.

Mr Kittiratt said the rice price pledging scheme was part of the government's strategy to help people at a time when the country was dealing with the global economic crisis.

The government came into power at a time when the world was facing economic problems and it also had to tackle the flood crisis soon after assuming office.

Measures introduced by the present government would help stimulate the economy, he insisted.

Mr Korn also said Pheu Thai's populist policies bred corruption.

He cited the government's 300-billion-baht water management programme as one example.

The fact that the government has introduced royal decrees to implement such a huge investment has made the programme almost free of scrutiny.

Decisions have also been made to do away with state regulations so that procurement projects under the programme could be carried out without having to go through official screening process, he said.

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Writer: Pattnapong Chantranontwong